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May 12, 2008

Miss Landmine Angola 2008

I kid you not.


I’ve devoted a fair amount of time to the intersections of aesthetics and politics, but I was struck dumb by the Miss Landmine project.

Others will react with much more clarity. At the least, the issues regarding gender and commodification are, well, explosive. They even have a T-shirt bearing the logo:


Still a princess, and perhaps Hallmark will want to get into the act. Hell, there already may be sections for Landmine Survivors in the card shops in Angola. Or around Army bases in the US. And who am I to tell them how to get past their trauma?

After reading the manifesto, turning on the theme song (yes, the theme song), and looking at the contestants, I started to get the point. But I’d still be interested in what others think about this weird, Angolan-Norwegian attempt to confront the continuing toll of war in our time.

And if you are interested, voting remains open until April 3.


Miss Landmine Angola 2008


6 Responses

  1. Trish says

    I immediately loved these images and the comfort these women have in their bodies. I think they are lovely.
    What I find really intriguing is the Miss Landmine logo. It is an appropriation of the women’s bathroom sign. Associating an empowering beauty contest with public restrooms seems like a strange choice. But this is more about the universal recognition of the sign for woman. The logo takes the exceptional experiences of a few women and reduces them to a sign that is universally recognizable. This seems to normalize their experience as somehow related to all larger women’s issues. The Miss Landmind Manifesto also suggests that this beauty contest is not just about African women in war torn nations. * Female pride and empowerment. * Question established concepts of physical perfection. * Celebrate true beauty.

  2. Hariman says

    Trish, I feel the same way about the individual women, but I also believe that the idea of a beauty contest is a real obstacle to celebrating real beauty. Ditto with using the conventions of consumer marketing to confront the aftermath of war: it just might work, and yet the same conventions function most of the time to distract us from political awareness–say, awareness of the deadly consequences of US foreign policy and the international arms market, which resulted in Angola being sown with land mines. The dilemma is that what may be an effective strategy for helping those who have been harmed also comes out of and fits back into larger patterns for the normalization of war. Progressive causes often have to rely on conservative conventions to be effective in the public media, and the Miss Landmine Angola seems a particularly clear example of some of the tensions involved.

  3. Peter says

    I admire the celebration of true beauty and the effort to empower women, especially by recasting the women as survivors rather than victims. However, I’m deeply troubled by the system of celebration. In pursuit of such noble goals, the project relies upon a perverse system or measure of beauty–the beauty contest! The beauty contestant relinquishes her power, and subjects her body to the male gaze in search of approval to “win” the contest against other women. The very nature of beauty contests standardize and objectify women, so why celebrate “true beauty” in the contest system that seems to perpetuates or reduce women to mere objects vying for approval?

  4. Leslie says

    Like you, I felt conflicted about this project. As someone who is currently living in Angola, let me tell you that it is very easy to become desensitized to survivors of landmine accidents because there are, sadly, so many of them.

    I personally think that it’s a positive thing, overall. Objectification aside, beauty pagents are a big deal in Angola and this is one where women who would normally be shunned from such things can participate. Local media reported on this last year as a genuine news event, not as a joke.

  5. Tom says

    It’s a great initiative to show that most victimes of landmines are innocent civilians… (90% of them)
    In order to highlight the issue, DangerousGround, a British NGO, has made an impressive video clip that I’ve put on my blog. It’s a great video 🙂

  6. Claudia says

    what really blow my mind is the fact the after all still a way to observe the beauty of
    all this woman.
    I think is a genius idea
    thank you for appreciating the woman in my country for their really beauty

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